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Stay Healthy and Safe on Spring Break

Photo: Teenagers in swimming poolGoing to another country for spring break? Follow these tips to reduce your risk of illness or injury abroad.

Spring break means an escape from the daily grind. For high school and college students, it can be a rite of passage or an annual tradition. This is your time. It is all about you, and YOU are in charge of your health, safety, and well-being.

Getting ready for spring break is more than just picking a destination.

While you're choosing among an exotic island getaway, a ski vacation, or just a short ride down the highway, follow these steps to ensure you have a healthy and safe spring break trip.

For those Going Abroad

Vaccination before vacation. Before you go abroad, find out about vaccines and any health concerns at your destination. Check with the local health department or a travel medicine specialist 6 to 8 weeks before you leave the United States.

It's still flu season, and vaccines are the most important tool we have for preventing the flu. Talk with your doctor about getting a flu shot.

Photo: A group of students

Travel health insurance. Consider health insurance if you're traveling outside the United States, because your regular carrier might not cover expenses. Coverage for emergency medical evacuation can be useful, particularly if you do extreme sports, such as mountain climbing or heli-skiing.

Active vacations. Whether your sport is ice climbing or reef diving, depend on reliable outfitters for success. When making reservations, ask questions to make sure you will be with properly trained guides and will be using well-maintained equipment. Don't take chances that might cause injuries—or worse.

You are what you eat. Tempted to indulge in the local cuisine? Food can be the best or the worst part of your international trip. In developing countries, eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot. Avoid eating fresh vegetables and fruits, unless you can peel them yourself. Drink only bottled, sealed beverages, and steer clear of ice—it was probably made with tap water.

Is it worth the risk? The phrase "what happens on spring break stays on spring break" can imply that it is okay—even expected—to engage in risky behaviors that you would not normally consider in your daily life, but you should take your healthy behaviors on vacation with you:

  • Use latex condoms if you have sex (see Sexually Transmitted Diseases).
  • To prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B, don't get tattoos or piercings.
  • Drink alcohol responsibly and be sure to have a designated driver.
  • Remember the basics of safe driving: wear seatbelts, maintain the speed limit, and avoid distractions such as talking on the phone or texting while driving. (Using a cell phone while driving is illegal in many countries.)

Photo: HikersTravel wise. Here are a few other reminders to ensure smart traveling:

  • Wear sunscreen. Avoid overexposure to the sun by wearing protective clothing and limit time in the sun during the hottest part of the day, 10 am–4 pm.
  • Swim in safe places. Before jumping in, ask about bacterial contamination, water depth, and other hazards, such as sharp rocks or coral, riptides, and dangerous sea animals.
  • Pack smart and remember that prevention can be travel-sized. Carry your own stash of first-aid supplies and medications. Insect repellent and antidiarrheal medicine are musts.

Politics, politics. The US Department of State website, www.travel.state.gov, helps travelers gauge the political climate of unstable countries.

You have been busy, you have worked hard, so now relax and have a good time—you deserve it!

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